Enforcement notice follows discovery of 26 “main deviations” from consented plans

Mast Quay II montage

Source: Royal Borough of Greenwich

The built-out version of the 23-storey tower at Mast Quay Phase II in Woolwich, compared with the consented version

A London council is looking to demolsih a recently completed 204-home Thameside development because of significant differences between the consented scheme and the built-out version.

The Royal Borough of Greenwich has issued an enforcement notice demanding the demolition of the Mast Quay Phase II development at Woolwich, which comprises three blocks, the tallest of which is 23 storeys.

In a statement, the council said that “extensive investigation” since the scheme completed last year had concluded that the development was “so substantially different” to proposals consented in 2012 that the build-to-rent scheme had effectively been constructed without planning permission.

Plans for the scheme on Woolwich Church Street were originally lodged in 2010, when the architect was Southwark-based Upchurch Associates. A decision notice was sent to the practice in 2012.

The original developer for the scheme was Mast Quay Developments Ltd, which went into administration. Comer Homes Group subsequently bought the second phase of the scheme and built it out. Comer Homes is the subject of Greenwich’s enforcement action.

Greenwich said the “26 main deviations” it had identified included visible design changes to the external appearance of the buildings, leaving them looking “more solid and bulky” and the removal of a stepped-back top floor and glazed curtain wall façade planned for a 15-storey block. The latter feature had been designed to “give the appearance of a sail”.


Source: Royal Borough of Greenwich

The approved version of a 15-storey tower at the Mast Quay Phase II development

The authority said Mast Quay Phase II also featured different cladding, different balconies and smaller windows than the consented scheme – resulting in less sunlight and a reduced outlook for residents.

It added that two of the three blocks that make up the scheme had an increased footprint compared with the planning approval issued in 2012 but lacked expected features including roof gardens, green roofs, children’s play areas and landscaped gardens.

The council’s statement also said that supposedly “accessible” apartments had non-accessible features, such as steps up to balconies, putting outdoor space out of reach for wheelchair users.

Council leader Anthony Okereke said seeking the demolition of the development was not a decision Greenwich had taken lightly but he insisted the move was “reasonable and proportionate” to the scale and seriousness of the situation.

“Mast Quay Phase II represents two prominent high-rise buildings on Woolwich’s riverside that just are not good enough, and the reason that they are not good enough is because the development that was given planning permission is not the one that we can all see before us today,” he said.

“We will not stand by and allow poor quality and unlawful development anywhere in our borough.”


Source: Royal Borough of Greenwich

The built-out version of the 15-storey tower at Mast Quay Phase II

Cabinet member for regeneration Aidan Smith said the built-out version of Mast Quay Phase II was a “mutant development” and a “blight on the landscape, local conservation zone and heritage assets and views”.

“If a scheme matching what has been built at Mast Quay Phase II was submitted for planning permission today, it would be refused,” he added. “We cannot let what has been delivered at Mast Quay Phase II go unchallenged.”

Cabinet member for community safety and enforcement Ann-Marie Cousins said Comer Homes Group had started work on the site in 2015 but only recently engaged with the council about design changes.

“They have had many years to engage with us regarding the amendments they claim it was necessary to make, due to changes in building regulations, yet there was no contact or application made,” she said. “An attempt was only made retrospectively as a consequence of the enforcement investigation.”

Greenwich said it had advised Comer Homes Group not to let apartments in the development once it began its enforcement investigation last year, however it said the advice had been ignored. The council said existing tenants would be given sufficient time to find new accommodation as part of the enforcement process.

Comer has until 30 October to appeal against Greenwich Council’s enforcement notice, which was served on Monday.

A statement issued on behalf of Comer indicated the group intended to appeal.

“The group’s focus now is to urgently discuss this matter with the council,” it said.

Upchurch Associates had not responded to a request for comment at the time of publication.